Three universities united in a historic protest on a shared road.
MANILA – Calling themselves “Katipuneros” — a term reminiscent of the underground revolutionary society, Katipunan, which declared war on Spain in 1896 – students of three universities along Katipunan Avenue in Quezon City rose up in anger against the sudden burial of ousted dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr. on Nov. 18.
Katipunan comes from the Tagalog root word “tipon” (to gather), and indeed, the road lived up to its name, as some 3,000 students from the University of the Philippines (UP), Ateneo de Manila University (AdMU) and Miriam College (formerly Maryknoll) gathered in indignation against a despot who ruled and died even before they were born.
The road became venue for the historic unity of the three schools, which usually compete against each other on academic excellence, and are distinguished by their stereotyped reputation: state-run UP, the hotbed of student activism during martial law; Jesuit-run Ateneo, the home of moderates; and also Catholic-run Miriam, seat of “let’s-make-tusok-tusok-the-fishballs” collegialas.
But the Marcos burial triggered flashbacks of the brutalities of martial law, and brought to mind something the three schools have in common: they all have martyred alumni – their best and brightest sons and daughters who fought and were killed by state forces during martial law. Scholars of the people and real heroes of the nation.
At noon on Nov. 18, the three schools reverberated with calls for protests and students had began to assemble after news broke out that the Marcos family has successfully buried their patriarch at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes’ Cemetery) in Taguig City, after being flown in by a military chopper from Batac, Ilocos Norte.
UP Diliman student councilor Ben Te said that in UP, students gathered at the AS lobby, led by various college councils. By that time, some 700 Ateneo students have massed up and were geared to “occupy Katipunan,” while more than 100 have gathered in Miriam. Even high school students at the UP Integrated School held a noise barrage in solidarity with the protests.
By dusk, the hundreds swelled into at least 3,000, lined up along Katipunan, waving banners and placards, and raging, raging against the dying of the light.
Te said the protest disproved the detractors of “millenials,” who are largely perceived as self-absorbed, “selfie-oriented” and apolitical.
“We showed that we have a deep understanding, and that the youth remember how other youths gave up their lives during the Marcos dictatorship. That is why we now have organizations, student councils… because the youth of the past fought for this,” Te said. “Now, we dare to ask ourselves what kind of future we want to leave for the next generation.”
The UP student leader said there are plans to establish a Katipunan network, so the three schools can further unite on various issues.
At the protest, “the elders” of the schools – administration officials who lived through martial law – became emotional as they recounted the cruelties they experienced in the hands of the dictator’s military.
UP Vice Chancellor for Community Affairs Nestor Castro narrated how he was arrested and detained without charges as a 23-year-old activist. His mother petitioned for a writ of habeas corpus, but Marcos then issued a Presidential Commitment Order (PCO) for him, which meant: “I have no right to question my detention.”
School officials from Ateneo and Miriam also recalled the names of their batch mates and friends who were also tortured and detained, and those who gave up their lives.
Martial law survivor and UP alumnus Bonifacio Ilagan, mentioned Billy Begg, Ferdie Arceo and Edgar Jopson – “Atenistas with whom I was honored to work with.”
Of course, traffic became slower than usual, but it mattered little to most motorists who honked their horns, raised their fists and even brandished anti-Marcos signs as they passed through the throng of protesters.
Although united in one issue, there was a noticeable difference in the slogans being chanted. On the side of mostly Ateneo and Miriam students, it went: “Marcos diktador-di bayani!” They also turned their ire to the President, with the slogan: “Duterte-tuta ni Makoy!”
On the dominantly-UP side, it was the First Quarter Storm-era chant: “Marcos-Hitler-diktador-tuta!” Simultaneous programs also went on on each side, but the respective loudspeakers were just loud enough not to drown the other out. Meanwhile, the outer rows of protesters were busy cheering on motorists: “Busina-busina! Para sa hustisya!”
Handmade placards dominated the protest, with messages ranging from the funny, the cheeky to the outrightly scornful — all expressing rage against ousted dictator Marcos.
“It’s not too late for us youths to act and fight historical revisionism,” said Karen Macalalad, editor-in-chief of the UP Diliman’s Philippine Collegian, in one of the programs. She proudly cited how “Kulê” was part of the “mosquito press” which valiantly exposed the dictator’s crimes during martial law, as she vowed to continue its tradition.
Ilagan lauded how the students took a stand and exhorted them to continue the struggle, not just on the burial issue, but on the looming return of the Marcoses who ruled with violence, lies and deception.
“We need to change, not just the faces in Malacañang, Congress or the court. Change will only happen if we create a change in the social system,” said Ilagan, who is also convener of the Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses in Malacañang (Carmma). The same change that many martyrs and heroes aspired, fought and died for, through revolution.
“So, what are we going to do?” Ilagan asked, quickly answering with certainty and resolve, to the cheering of the millenials: “We. Are going. To fight.”